S'porean youth, 16, planned to conduct terrorist attacks against Muslims, detained under ISA

He is the youngest individual detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities to date.

Sulaiman Daud | January 27, 2021, 05:00 PM

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A 16-year-old male Singaporean was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in December 2020 after the authorities found he had made detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks against Muslims in Singapore.

The youth, who is not named due to his age, was a secondary school student at the time.

He is the youngest individual to be dealt with under the ISA to date, following the detainment of a 17-year-old in January 2020.

Inspired by far-right extremism

According to a press release from the Internal Security Department (ISD) on Jan. 27, the youth is a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity.

He was self-radicalised and inspired by extremist, far-right ideology, the first such person detained here.

He is described as being motivated by a "strong antipathy" towards Islam and harboured a "fascination with violence".

He watched propaganda videos by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and believed erroneously that ISIS's violent acts represented Islam.

The youth also watched the livestream video of the terrorist attack carried out in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand by Brenton Tarrant on March 15, 2019.

He also read Tarrant's manifesto, having found it online.

Planned to attack Muslims in mosques with a machete

The youth planned to attack two mosques on the anniversary of the attack, March 15, 2021.

He identified Assyafaah mosque in Admiralty and Yusof Ishak mosque in Woodlands as his targets, as they were near his home.

Prior to his planned attack, he conducted online reconnaissance and research on the mosques in preparation.

He intended to drive between the two sites, and planned to procure a BlueSG car by stealing his father's credit card and renting one for this purpose.

He had prepared by identifying a BlueSG station near his residence, and watching videos on renting a BlueSG car and operating an automatic transmission car.

The youth bought a tactical vest from Carousell, intending to adorn it with right-wing extremist symbols.

He also wanted to modify it so he could strap on a mobile device and livestream the attack, like Tarrant.

Photo courtesy of MHA.

First considered using guns and explosives

The youth's original plan was to use a rifle, and found a prospective seller via a private chat platform.

However, he did not follow through with the purchase as he suspected it was a scam.

Nevertheless, he continued looking for firearms online, only giving up when realising it would be difficult to obtain one given Singapore's strict gun-control laws.

He also explored the idea of making a Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) bomb, and setting fire to the mosques with gasoline, like Tarrant.

However, he dropped both ideas due to logistical and personal safety concerns.

Obtained machete instead

At the point of his arrest by ISD, the youth had identified his choice of machete on online marketplace Carousell, but had not yet made the purchase.

He had prepared for a knife attack by watching YouTube videos and was confident that he could target the arteries of potential victims by slashing at their necks and chests.

Photo courtesy of MHA.

According to a statement from Carousell's Chief of Staff and VP of Operations Su Lin Tan, knives that are not meant for culinary or domestic use are not allowed on the platform and have since been taken down.

She added, "Carousell strictly prohibits any form of weaponry to be sold on its platform and will continue to further its efforts with both automated and manual moderation, to keep our marketplace safe."

Prepared two messages

Also like Tarrant, the youth prepared two documents, intending to disseminate them prior to the attacks.

The first was a message to the people of France, which he drafted after the attacks against Christians in a church in Nice, France on Oct. 29, 2020.

He referred to his intended attacks as a "massacre", an act of "vengeance" and a "call for war" against Islam.

The second document was a manifesto detailing his hatred for Islam and his belief that "violence should never be solved with peace".

This document, which was unfinished at the time of his arrest, borrowed heavily from Tarrant's manifesto. It referred to Tarrant as a "saint" and called the Christchurch attacks a "justifiable killing of Muslims".

Preparation indication of his determination to carry out attack

ISD stated that the detailed plans and preparation attested to the youth's determination to follow through with his plan of attack.

During the investigation, he admitted that he could only foresee two outcomes to his plan -- either he would be arrested before he could carry out the attacks, or that he executes the plan and is later killed by the police.

The investigation to-date indicates that he acted alone, with no indication that he tried to influence anyone with his outlook, or involve others in his attack plans.

His immediate family and others in his social circles were not aware of his plans, or the depth of his hatred for Islam.

Rehabilitation ongoing

According to ISD, safeguards were in place during the investigation and detention period, on account of his age.

The youth's mother was present during the interview prior to his arrest. An appropriate adult was also engaged during the investigation period.

Family visits, which are typically not allowed during the first 30 days of the investigation period, were allowed in this case.

The youth is currently undergoing rehabilitation, involving religious, psychological and social approaches. He may require Christian religious counselling to correct misconceptions.

The youth will undergo psychological counselling to address his propensity to violence and vulnerability to radical influences.

Arrangements have been made for him to continue his education while in detention, and a mentor will guide him on pro-social behaviour.

ISD stated:

"This case demonstrates yet again that extreme ideas can find resonance among and radicalise Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion. It is a threat to all of us and our way of life. We must remain vigilant so that we can intervene early on to avert a tragedy."

ISD urged the public to contact the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline at 1800-2626-473 if they had any information in this regard.

The public can also call 999, send an SMS to 71999, or use the "Report" function in the SGSecure application if they spot suspicious items or individuals.

Top image courtesy of MHA.

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